It’s World Refugee Day

I can’t imagine being displaced from the safety and security of my home. I can’t even fathom what it’s like  to survive without food, friends, family and shelter. I can’t visualise being surrounded by so much hate, gunfire, shelling and death. I can’t contemplate a fear so chilling that I’m forced to take an incredible risk to get out of a dangerous situation.

Yet one person on the planet every two seconds flees on foot, by vehicle or boat to escape and seek sanctuary elsewhere. I wonder why anyone would risk a buffeting sea until I actually consider the environment of where they’ve come from.

June 20 is World Refugee Day. There were 51.2 million refugees reported in 2013 which exceeded the numbers after WW2. This has grown to an extraordinary and record number of 68 million refugees in 2017. While  conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Congo areas continue,  the numbers of displaced people will grow.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) recent report, one in every 110 people on our planet is a refugee, internally displaced or is seeking asylum. It’s a staggering figure but what is even more tragic is that 25 million are under the age of 18.

Most of us in the Western world are very fortunate and we all have a responsibility to do something whether it’s to support organisations who help refugees such as the UNHCR (http://www.unhcr.org/uk/), agitate our own government and elected officials or simply take the time to reflect and change our attitude and mindset about our fellow human beings.

Many of us would no doubt have relatives or ancestors who were refugees. Indeed, within my own family there are refugees from WW2 and the Greek Civil War.

Refugees don’t choose to run because they want to, they’re put into a position where they simply have to.

Book Review: Boswell’s Fairies by Peter Lingard

Paul Johnson, a bank officer in Manchester rebels against his father’s wishes and  joins Her Britannic Majesty’s Corps of Royal Marines at the age of 19.

It’s 1960 and Paul finds himself with a motley group of recruits whose backgrounds are in stark contrast to his own. Sergeant Boswell is assigned to lead their Squad and his first introduction leaves you in no doubt that the reader is in for a no-nonsense ride.

“Now we’ve got you, the molly-coddling is over. When I say jump, you dinna ask how high; ya just put one-hundred-and-ten per-cent into it. Like it or not, you are going to be the best squad that ever passed through recruit training. If you canna make what I deem to be the acceptable grade, I will have you put back to the next squad. Hear me well. If I canna find a legitimate reason to have you back-squadded, I will beat the living shit out of you.”

The reader winces with Paul as he quickly learns the harsh realities of life when he realises his mistake right before he receives his first punishment.

“I almost laughed. Perhaps I did laugh. It was an involuntary reaction that I immediately knew was wrong, so all that escaped me was, I thought, an inaudible hiccup. Although we were already quiet, we seemed to become instantly quieter. I saw Boswell’s eyes widen. A cloud moved in front of the sun, as if to protect it. I’m sure birds stopped singing. The fearful silence seemed palpable. Only the innocent wind could be heard blowing around us.”

Paul becomes friends with ex-wrestler, Jack Mason and together they settle into the rigors of intense training to earn the coveted Green Beret with H squad, strangely  nicknamed as Boswell’s Fairies. When not learning to be a marine, Paul and Jack  go in search of romance, learning a lot about themselves and each other as they undergo the gruelling lessons of what it is to be a man, to love and to belong.

The writing is excellent, peppered with humour as the author takes us on a journey through England of the sixties. The language is as it should be, coarse and authentic. It made me laugh, it made me smile and it made me squirm. It’s a gripping tale of what was and now can never be in today’s world. A raw and honest portrayal of life as a marine in training. A powerfully written debut novel which takes you to another place.

Highly recommended.